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Zach Orr takes over Baltimore's defense on a staff that has to replace several assistants

Zach Orr
Zach Orr

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Zach Orr is now in charge of the Baltimore Ravens' defense.

One of the first orders of business is figuring out who, exactly, will be working around him.

“We got to get ready to get some more coaches in here,” he said. “Credit to the coaches that got opportunities at other places. ... We're just going through that process.”

The Ravens had one of the NFL's top defenses this season, and that was reflected in how their staff was rewarded over the past week and a half. Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald was hired as Seattle's new coach. Orr was promoted to replace him. Two other defensive assistants — Anthony Weaver and Dennard Wilson — left to become coordinators for the Dolphinsand Titans.

The 31-year-old Orr, a former Ravens linebacker, takes over after Macdonald was defensive coordinator for the past two seasons. Orr was Baltimore's inside linebackers coach.

“I know what the standard is here as a defense here in Baltimore,” he said.

The Ravens won two Super Bowls thanks to the contributions of Pro Football Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. This season's team ranked No. 1 in scoring defense and sacks. The Ravens had the best record in the NFL during the regular season, but lost to Kansas City in the AFC championship game.

Macdonald was a linebackers coach with the Ravens before heading to the college ranks and spending one year as the defensive coordinator at Michigan. Then he came back to Baltimore, a few months before his 35th birthday, to fill the same role.

Orr is following a similar path — a young assistant who used to coach linebackers and is now taking over defensive play-calling.

“He’s very smart. He has prepared for that job. He’s in the middle of the defense," coach John Harbaugh said. “I think when you’re a linebackers coach, that’s an advantage because you’re in the middle of the defense, (and) you understand the whole defense inside and out. You have a big picture.”

Orr says he prefers to call the game from the sideline instead of in the booth.

“I've got to be on the field,” he said. "I've got to look at players in their eyes and see what's going on and get a feel for how guys are feeling out there.”

Baltimore has All-Pros at linebacker (Roquan Smith) and safety (Kyle Hamilton), so Orr should have a lot to work with even if standout linebacker Patrick Queen leaves via free agency.

“I want our defense to play together, first and foremost, like 11 people playing as one,” Orr said. "The next thing, I want it to be violent. Very violent, physical. That's just the standard here. Everything we're going to do is going to be with physicality and violence. And then, just execution, executing at a high level, executing in certain situations, executing all the time.

“And then the last thing I'll leave you with is just, I would say, organized chaos. Present a lot of problems to the offense. Never give the answer to the offense before the snap.”

Orr's father Terry played tight end in the NFL for Washington from 1986-1993. Zach Orr played three seasons with the Ravens — starting 15 games in his final one — before he retired because of a spinal condition.

“My plan was honestly, make it to the National Football League, play like 10, 15 years, go back home, coach some high school football," he said. "Never thought I'd be coaching in the National Football League. So this is a blessing.”